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Favela Youths Organize Skateboarding School in Rio de Ja...

Favela Youths Organize Skateboarding School in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

What’s this?! True tram children and teenagers go flying by Teixeira Ribeiro Street, one of the most well-known streets in Maré. Anyone passing through the collection of favelas will notice that skateboarding has become wildly popular. But this is not something new. The movement has a long history in the community. Prior to this, the

Coletivo Skate Maré, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

What’s this?! True tram children and teenagers go flying by Teixeira Ribeiro Street, one of the most well-known streets in Maré. Anyone passing through the collection of favelas will notice that skateboarding has become wildly popular.

But this is not something new. The movement has a long history in the community. Prior to this, the youth would practice their moves in União Park or in Salsa and Merengue Square, but today, the Pontilhão (“small bridge”), which is underneath the overpass of the Metro Yellow Line, was confirmed to be the primary location. What many don’t know is that there is a little school and even a shop, the Maré Skate Shop, exclusively dedicated to the practice.

The school is an initiative promoted by the Skate Maré Collective which seeks to support and develop skateboarding in the community. Beyond this, the collective also contributes to a series of events held on the street. The space is already occupied by music, art, and of, course skating. According to Daniel Ribeiro, Manager of the Maré Skate Shop and volunteer at the school, “skateboarding occupies and rescues the space with willpower and initiatives to improve the area.”

Coletivo Skate Maré, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

New and Old Guard Gather to Practice

Every Saturday morning, the school brings together skaters of all ages and abilities to the Pontilhão. Six years ago, when the LAMSA (concessionaire that administers the Yellow Line) constructed a mini ramp there, the skaters Marcus Luciano and Alexandre Santos joined with a few other friends to offer lessons, planting the first seeds that have blossomed in the spirit of “make yourself.”

Alexandre, who has been skating since age 13, says that for him it represents “freedom of expression, satisfaction, and happiness.” Today, the alumni still practice their crazy maneuvers, and are still dedicated to teaching the children who are just beginning. Lucas, 18 years old, lives in Baixa do Sapateiro, also in Maré, and has participated in the school since he was 12. To him, he can’t imagine life without skating. He has no doubts when he says “skateboarding brings happiness.”

When the sun goes down we put a light on the ramp and then later in the square,” Daniel explains. He also cites the work by the group Maré Longboard, which operates in Nova Holanda as an alternative for the community youth. “It remains evident that skateboarding has the ability to cross barriers that traditionally impede the free movement of youth in the neighborhood,” he concluded.

Jonathan Rosário, known as “Bacteria,” resident of the McLaren favela, has at times snuck out of his house to skate since his family does not approve of the idea. Insistent, he continues going to classes. “To me, it is much more than a sport,” he assures. Currently the “baby” of the school, he is the project monitor and intends to become a skating instructor.

Young skaters taking lessons, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Skateboard as a Mobility Tool

The use of the skateboard is also more than merely for fun. It provides mobility -- physically and socially -- by providing access to other locations. The skaters from the collective make many trips all over the city, making friends and sharing experiences, from Barra a Niteroi, through Campo Grande and Ilha, Flamengo and Botafogo via Maracanã and Engenho de Dentro.

The dream of these skaters is to transform Pontilhão into a high quality road, not just to guarantee the future of skateboarding there, but to put Maré on the map as a destination for other skaters in Rio.

A reform would also help end disputes about use of the square, with those who want to play soccer on it for example. Fortunately, the first step has been taken. The collective confirmed a partnership with the EixoRio Institute of the City of Rio, which has already pledged to provide a flat floor area next to the ramp. Let the rolling begin!

Is skateboarding popular in your city? How is skating perceived by the government and local residents? Share your thoughts and city’s stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Anna Petrone is a transportation engineering masters student at the University of Maryland, with a Bachelor in Math and Economics. Her interests lie in transportation projects located in developing countries, particularly in South America. She took a...

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